AWIU members and guests traveled from across the U.S. and various foreign countries to attend AWIU’s 7th Annual International Women of Courage Celebration and welcome the awardees to America. The evening began with a reception during which honorees mingled with AWIU members, Celebration sponsors and honored guests, and representatives from the U.S. Department of State.
Catherine M. Russell, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues
During the dinner program, Catherine M. Russell, Ambassador-at-Large for the Office of Global Women’s Issues, introduced each of the International Women of Courage by highlighting her personal story, courage and inspirational work.
IWOC awardee Ms. Beatrice Mtetwa, Zimbabwe
IWOC awardee Beatrice Mtetwa spoke on behalf of all the recipients. Zimbabwe’s most prominent human rights lawyer, Ms. Mtewa has fought injustice, defended press freedom, and championed the rule of law for over 20 years, despite experiencing political reprisals and personal violence. She spoke enthusiastically of her gratitude for the International Women of Courage Award and the important, life changing recognition it brings to her and fellow awardees.
IWOC awardee Laxmi of India
Following Ms. Mtetwa, attendees listened in hushed silence to Laxmi, the soft-spoken IWOC recipient from India, who was 16 years old when an attacker threw acid in her face after she refused his unwanted advances. Although permanently disfigured, Laxmi became a fearless and avid campaigner with Stop Acid Attacks. Her work helped lead to groundbreaking legislation regulating the sale of acid and the persecution of perpetrators. In her quiet but determined voice, Laxi read an impassioned poem she had written to her attacker, proclaiming her newfound strength and refusal to be defeated. She followed her reading with a haunting song in her native tongue. Both IWOC speakers received a standing ovation from the audience.